Always, during my exchange, I asked myself, "Where is the time going?" But, now, the time is all gone. I'm back in the flatlands of Illinois, I'm heading off to Central States Conference tomorrow, and my dad is already making a schedule for my college classes.
But thinking back to when I did have the time.. In the last few months, school ended, Jaanipaev, Hiiumaa, I said the last good-byes to my friends, Laulupidu, and the start of my journey home.
For me, classes ended in May. I decided I was going to end a little earlier than my classmates, since I did literally nothing at school. There was another ceremony, the last ceremony, but I didn't go. I was in Tallinn with Halie and Adriana and we visited Adriana's school, Gustav Adolfi Gumnaasium. Wow, this was another one of those moments where I felt another appreciation for my classmates and friends in Rapla. Her classmates seemed so so cold. They didn't say 'hi' to her or anything nor did they look at her. Only her teacher talked to her and that was only because she had to ask him about her yearbook.
But later that night, we went out to Von Krahl to a Galvanic Elephants show. There we saw a couple friends from Haapsalu. In all it was a good show.
Mid June I went to Haapsalu for the last time. I stayed for 4ish days or so and I got showed around the city and helped set up for the second and last 'American' party. I was with Halie and she had about 6 jars of peanut butter. Soo.. Peanut butter party!! And we just wanted to get rid of our American food, like boxed macaroni and cheese, dip flavorings, kool-aids, pancake syrups, etc. Let's just say, we tried. We thought it turned out fine, but they didn't like the things so much. We couldn't help but laugh when they started to try the pancake syrup. 'Freaking out' would be an understatement. lol But the last couple days we toured around the city and saw the fort. It was really beautiful there.
Jaanipaev! It was the 23-24, but my family and I started the celebration a bit earlier. We went to a bar outside of Rapla since they had an annual celebration there. It was nice, so different because we don't celebrate Jaanipaev in the US. But there were a few games like "golfing" which I was terrible at and there was a beer drinking competition for the men, specifically. Then the next day, my family and I set off for the second biggest island in Estonia, HIIUMAA! During the ferry ride, my host mom and I heard a couple speaking in English. We were a bit curious, so I started to talk with them. The man was Estonian, his girlfriend was Chinese. They were pretty nice. We said our good-byes and went back to the car. While driving through Hiiumaa, I realized, it is absolutely gorgeous! But we drove to the Southern side of the island and drove through the forests to a friend's summer cottage. Everything there they made. The two houses, outdoor kitchen, everything. It was beautiful, in the middle of the forest with the sea a short 4 minute walk away. That was really nice because it was a private beach. During the rest of the 23rd and 24th, the 3 other families and mine just hung out and talked a lot. Then on the 25th, we went to see the Estonian Eiffel Tower which was pretty odd, and my brother and I climbed the insanely steep steps to the top of Kopu Lighthouse only to find the Estonian/Chinese couple, and we went to a beach where there were damages from a battle and ruined Soviet buildings. We later made our way to the harbour, but there was a huge line and we were at the end of it. So we had to wait a couple of hours for the next and last ferry back to the mainland. And finally we made it home around midnight.
In late, late June I got a call from a classmate to hang out. Earlier that day I was at the post office to send off another package and found out I got the package I had been waiting for. After some excited jumps and claps I took it home. I thought it was just going to be the peanut butter I requested, but no.. My parents liked to send the most random things in my packages. This one included my peanut butter, a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, fruit snacks, Stars 'n' Stripes themed garland and games... Sometimes I just don't understand their thought process. But it was nice to get a package, though it came so late. I had 6 jars of peanut butter and was going to meet a couple of friends later that day, so of course I brought them. I met with my friends and walked to one of their houses. During the walk, oh my word, I've never seen so many frogs and they were teeny-tiny. We made it to her house and I brought out my peanut butter for them. We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I'm not sure how well they liked them, but they didn't spit them out or anything, at least :) After pushing my peanut butter on them, we had to 'go to the store'. Well, in short, we didn't. We walked right into a surprise party. It was sooo sooo sweet of them. I really tried hard not to cry, and I didn't. After the hugs we grilled. But I kept realizing and thinking, this is the last time I'll see some of these people and it was hitting hard that I was leaving in a few days. I gave them all big hugs and by the time I got home I just started crying and crying. Seriously, I don't think I cried as long as that since I was a child. But just two days after that, on Saturday, my family and I went to an air show at the Rapla 'airport' then we went back home and we had the family/family friends goodbye party. On that day, I could only speak in Estonian and my family did really well with keeping up with it, I really appreciated it. One of my friends came to the party. When she had to leave though, one of my host dad's friend drove her home and we just stood there bawling and hugging. But by the time I got back into the car I got the most Estonian reaction to my red, puffy eyes, and sniffling. "Marina, why are you crying? Stop. You'll be coming back." haha and it was nice, he kept the subject off me leaving. So I managed to suck it up and went back to the party. I sat at the sauna with my host grandma and she kept asking about my friends here and I just started crying all over again. Being such a grandmother she just kept hugging and comforting me. The rest of the night was me sniffling, sitting by the sauna, and talking with everyone. One lady did my hair because "I'm in Estonia and girls should have braids, especially for Laulupidu" :)
The next day was the last day of Laulupidu and I went. It was the first time I saw the stadium and it was so beautiful there. It started with a parade, I missed some of it, but I did see a few friends in there. I'm not sure if hugging my friends walking in the parade was appropriate, but I was leaving that day and it happened. :)
During the Festival I went around with Halie to the different workshops and we made a few souvenirs for ourselves and ran into other friends. But since she was singing in the festival we parted ways, she sat with her host family and I sat with mine. When the choirs sang it was absolutely beautiful. The girls choir was first, but I missed some of it. I saw the rest, though. The boys were next, then everyone. I never noticed this, but towards the end I realized I was crying during most of the festival. I had to leave the festival early to catch my ferry. Damnit. But I am very glad that I got to end my year with such a big bang like this, it's just that I wish I could have experienced the whole thing..
I made it to my ferry, with my purse, carry-on, Rotary blazer, and two huge suitcases. I got to Finland and had to get these down escalators, lucky the Finns are super sweet and one worker helped me. I got to my taxi and we talked for a while. I mentioned being an exchange student in Estonia and as it turns out she's originally from Estonia! Like anyother Estonian/Finn I've met this year, she was so sweet and nice. Then I waited 8hours for my flight. I eventually made my way to Frankfurt where I waited with three French ladies to go to Philadelphia. It was a LONG flight and I was literally running to catch it. Luckily it was a little slowed down because since it was going to the US everyone had to be asked questions and go through another security and customs/immigration. Luckily I'm not a threat to society so I got on without problems. Such a long flight, but it did eventually make it to Philly. There I had to get my baggage and go through customs again. But this time: small problem. I got escorted to Agriculture. But after just a minute of talking with them I was on my way to go through another security. It was so weird being around so many people who speak English as a mother tongue. I could understand everything that was spoken around me. I heard so many weird conversations about hermaphrodites' mental states, to racial fights, family fights.. it was a bit overwhelming, but very entertaining. I went to get a frozen yogurt and I only had 3 dollar bills. I did have a few dollars in change, but I didn't feel like counting all of it at a register. I told the worker that I only had $3 and I got the 'pretty lady' discount. Ha. Please I've been traveling for a day and hadn't slept since Friday. Welcome to America, I guess.
I got to my flight to St. Louis and talked with some guy who goes to university in Missouri.
Luckily the flight was only a couple hours and we made it to St. Louis. But with some complications with my tickets I had to check-in my baggage all over again, but I had no idea where to go and I was told such a vague area. Thank god for kind TSA workers. He showed me the place, but no one was working at the counter. After waiting and waiting and waiting I got on my last flight. It was less than hour, but I was so exhausted and I kept passing out. lol I felt bad that I didn't stay up to talk to everyone. Literally everyone. It was such a small plane it could only hold 6 passengers. There were 3 passengers and the pilots kept the door open just to make small talk to us. But they woke me up and I saw my family waiting for me. They didn't quite recognize me at first, but since I was holding my Rotary blazer, I heard the excited screams. Then we made our way to the only open place open at midnight, Perkins. I ate a huge stack of pancakes. Real, thick, heavy, American pancakes! Eventually we got home and I got out all the gifts for them, they showed me all the changes, etc. It was so weird. I got to sleep, but my sisters had to wake up early so I got a nice 4 hours of sleep that night. Ugh.
It feels so weird being back in the US. Tomorrow I leave for a conference that's an 8hour drive away.
Oh.. Welcome home.